Play review – ‘A Flea in Her Ear’ a fun farce

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

In the form of a classic farce, “A Flea in Her Ear” employs multiple doors, a convenient set of steps, mistaken identity and a series of bad assumptions.
Piedmont Players’ production started slow, but picked up in the second act. It was hampered on opening night by some botched lines and peculiar accents, though.
It was not too hard to understand Camille Chandebise, played by CaLeb Hill. Camille hath a thpeech impediment.
Etienne Plucheux (Travis Stewart) has an almost indecipherable French accent.
Carlos Homenides de Histangua (Daniel Breuer) has a purposefully funny Castillian accent, complete with the substitution of TH for S, that makes his blustery Spaniard comical.
It’s all designed to fit punny comedy with the physical bits.
The plot is suitably convoluted. Raymonde Chandebise, played by Frances Bendert, thinks her adoring husband, Victor Emmanuel (Jonathan Furr) is cheating on her because he hasn’t been very busy in the bedroom lately.
She enlists her dear friend, Lucienne Homenides de Histangua, played by Dana Neelis, to trap him at a notorious hotel, the Coq d’Or.
Only when Victor Emmanuel gets the note, he passes it on to his colleague, Romain Tournel, sure the lady in question has confused the two men. Well, it seems Raymonde was considering an affair with the handsome Tournel, played by Bradley Padevick, before she thought her husband was cheating on her. Now the tables are turned!
Soon, scenes of depravity, real and imagined, slamming doors, sudden appearances and disappearances fill the stage and the audience begins to warm up.
It turns out the porter at the hotel, Poche, looks just like Victor Emmanuel. That adds a high level of confusion to the whole proceedings, as does our hot-blooded Spaniard’s conviction his wife is the one meeting Monsieur Chandebise.
Confused? Good. You should be. Everyone else is.
It turns out to be quite a bit of fun, despite the opening night difficulties.
Furr is very funny as Poche and Victor Emmanuel. And Hill does a good turn as Camille, granted a brief period of clear speech by a silver palate.
Piedmont regular Shawn Van Wallendael is the not-so-steady Dr. Finache, played with panache.
Stewart needs to enunciate in order for us to understand what he’s saying in his silly French accent ó which could be part of the character.
Same goes for Breuer, who does outrage so well. You’ll catch most of what he says, if you pay attention. He’s quite funny.
The ladies, who must spend most of their time outraged or terrified shine through the evening.
George Naylor is the old regimental chap Augustin Feraillon, who wants his seedy hotel run just so. He’s supported by his wife, a former, uh, working girl, Olympe, played sweetly by Becky Lippard. They provide plenty of comedy.
Retired Catawba College drama professor Jim Epperson has a very funny turn as Baptistin, the “stock” invalid who can magically appear in a room to make the business look legitimate.
Another wily comic relief is Herr Schwarz, Eric Slipp, who can only speak German and only wants a little liebchen for a little while.
Rounding out the cast are Heather Van Wallendael, as Antoinette Plucheux, Etienne’s kittenish wife and a frequenter of the Coq d’Or, and Amber Adams as the bored maid Eugenie.
Although it’s basically a sex farce, there’s no sex. Only one person loses any garments, and she runs fast. The inuendo is likely beyond a youngster’s comprehension, especially with all the accents.
At just over two hours, including an intermission, the evening moves along ó though a quicker tempo in Act I would help.
Director and designer Reid Leonard had some fun with the two sets and lets the audience see the stage magic between Act II and III.
“A Flea in Her Ear,” underwritten by KMD Construction, continues tonight and Saturday and Jan. 28-31 at 7:3- p.m., with a matinee Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 704-633-5471.
nnnContact Deirdre Parker Smith at 704-797-4252 or